A birthday of sorts

I’m not much on birthdays (or any holidays, for that matter).  I do remember the birthdays of all those in my family of origin, of three of my grandparents, and of my own, little nuclear family.  That’s about where it ends.  I only know birthdays for one niece, one nephew, one aunt, so I probably ought to be embarrassed that I do remember the birthday of my childhood baseball hero every year.  That guy is a year younger than my father, but let’s just say Dad’s character and life patterns are infinitely more admirable than the former Major Leaguer’s.  I have once again not mentioned the baseball player’s name on his birthday, because I don’t want to call any more attention to him.

April 30, though, is a birthday anniversary of something I will call attention to:  the initial invitation for Eugene Peterson to write The Message. 

Portions of The Message were published serially for a period of about ten years, starting in 1993, and I intentionally purchased each new volume until the whole was at last published in 2002.  It was difficult for me to divest myself of the separate volumes such as The Pentateuch and The Prophets, but it didn’t make sense to keep them all.  I now have only a complete hardback edition, a separate hardback copy of The Wisdom Books, a paperback Psalms, and a full electronic, versified edition.

Speaking of “versification,” one helpful-yet-annoying feature of the original work is that it does not contain traditional “verses.”  I say “helpful” because not having those little numbers can guard against the breaking up of thoughts as one reads longer passages.  I say “annoying” because the lack of verse numbers makes it difficult to find a particular spot and to compare with other versions.  There is a place for both, so I’m glad to have non-versified editions in print but also glad that my Logos software contains a versified version for easier pinpoint access.

I could not presume to add what so many others have said in praise of the translation, and I don’t care to expend effort refuting or responding to its judgmental detractors.  (No translation is above criticism, and I’d rather be more granular in my approach to this one and all others.)  Rather, I just want to recognize this milestone.  Here, I’ll allow Peterson’s own introductory words to speak for themselves.  He tells of the time in which the seed of The Message took root:

     I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible in the world of Today.  I had always assumed they were the same world.  But these people didn’t see it that way.  So out of necessity I became a “translator,” . . . daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sings songs and talk to our children.
     And all the time those old Biblical languages, those powerful and vivid Hebrew and Greek originals, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imagination of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible. . . .
     The Message is a reading Bible.  It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available.  My intent here . . . is simply to get people reading who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again. . .  So at some point along the way, soon or late, it will be important to get a standard study Bible to facilitate further study.  Meanwhile, read in order to live, praying as you read, “God, let it be with me just as you say.”

– Eugene Peterson, Preface to The Message, 2002, © Eugene Peterson, published by NavPress

Now, especially if you have never read from The Message, you might try it once in a while.  Try it for a change.  Try it for a perk.  Try it for a comparison.  Try reading long passages.  You might be surprised at how quickly one of Paul’s letters goes, or how marvelously new one of the gospels or the books of Hebrew history sounds.  Whether or not you get into The Message, read, consider, and study the message by any helpful means.

Happy creative birthday to Eugene Peterson for his distinctive accomplishment in The Message, with thanks to the editor who wrote the invitation letter received more than a quarter-century ago on April 30, 1990.  No translation is perfect, but this one went a long way in making scripture come alive for readers.


For more Bible Anniversary reading . . . another translation of note, now more than four hundred years old, celebrated a birthday in 2011.  The KJV was a massive achievement in its time and was deserving of celebration and praise for 200-300 hundred years, I figure.  Read my anniversary farewell wishes to the Authorized Version (KJV) here.

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More than a few quotations (#1400)

1400I realized only a couple of weeks ago that I was approaching post No. 1400¹ on this blog.  One hundred times double the “perfection” number is a nice number, but the sentiments and studies here have been anything but perfect.  I’d like to use this particular milestone post (see below² for other milestones) to share some fine work from other writers I’ve come in contact with recently.  Many of the passages below bear words and thoughts that 1) poetically are my envy and 2) spiritually speak of some of my elusive, unattainable, guiding stars.  I will appeal to many of these again.

Please be inspired . . . or motivated . . . or challenged . . . as you wish.

Of Following the King

Could it be that one’s real duty is not to find the one true highway, but rather to be a certain kind of person—humble, attentive, and obedient—whatever the path one is on?  If “The Way” be in us, John Bunyan once said, then we will always be in The Way, wherever we travel.  – Darryl Tippens, Pilgrim Heart

When “everyone was a Christian,” the means by which “everyone” became a “Christian” was infant baptism….  This practice stood at the heart of the full flowering of the Constantinian church…. For the Anabaptists, baptism represented the point of entrance into a community of faith that had “been taught repentance and the amendment of life.”  Baptism must not serve as a empty symbol of entry into a state-run church; baptism epitomized discipleship, and infant baptism cut out the very heart of the New Testament vision of the practice.  Instead of baptizing culture and calling it ”Christian,” the Anabaptists desired that the church baptize those whose sought to walk in the way of Jesus…. “Faith” required, enabled, and freed one to walk in the way of Christ; baptism without discipleship was thus not Christian baptism.  – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 137-139 (citing also the Schleitheim Confession of the 16th century)

It appears to me, comparing my experience with that of many friends, that once one has seriously enlisted on the side of God and his purpose, considerable spiritual opposition is provoked and encountered. . . .  Should they once begin to embark on real living and to assist in building the Kingdom of God, then the attack begins!  – J.B. Phillips, For This Day (emphasis Phillips’s)

Underneath “the end justifies the means” logic lies the assumption that the way of Christ is simply not a relevant social ethic … society will fall apart, will sink into a spiral of unmitigated violence. … Jesus could not have meant that we take him seriously in the realm of social and political realities—after all, what would happen if everybody did that?!  . . .

Can those who claim Jesus to be divine grant so little authority to this One who showed us what it means to live a human life in accordance with the will of God?  “Hey, be realistic, none of us are Jesus!” it is objected.  But do such objections not overlook the New Testament claim that the people of God, the “body of Christ,” continue the ministry and work of Christ right in the midst of real human history, right in the midst of oppression, injustice, violence, and greed? – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 34, 39 (emphasis Camp’s)

Disciples are called to be peacemakers.  This, however, does not necessarily mean passive disengagement from the world around us.  Our example is our Father who loved the world and gave His Son for it.  This is radical engagement….  -John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come

[A German woman, in reflection on Hitlerian Germany:]  “Don’t you Americans always think that your wars are just?”  Such anecdotes point us to a historical reality:  a lazy use of the just war tradition most often provides rationalization for Christians killing their alleged enemies.   – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 129 (emphasis Camp’s)

Claiming Jesus as Lord results in a particular manner of life, for which Jesus is the authority. – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 125

Of the Kingdom

My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.  But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. – Jesus (John 18, NRSV)

The idea of the Kingdom of God, the sovereignty of God, was a conception which was central and basic to the message of Jesus.  He emerged on men with the message that the Kingdom was at hand (Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15).  To preach the Kingdom was an obligation that was laid upon him (Luke 4:43).  It was with the message of the Kingdom that he went through the towns and villages of Galilee (Luke 8:1).  The announcement of the Kingdom was the central element in the teaching of Jesus. . . .   To do the will of God and to be in the Kingdom of God are one and the same thing. – William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus

When Jesus said (Luke 17:20-21) that the Kingdom doesn’t come with observation—that the Kingdom of God is “within” he wasn’t denying external things, he was emphasizing internal things. . . .  What exactly is Christ saying in this verse?  He’s telling us that the reign of God is peculiar. It’s built on self-surrender. – Jim McGuiggan, The Reign of God

What did Jesus talk about after his resurrection?  He appeared to his followers “over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).  This was his subject matter.  – Howard Snyder, Community of the King

Of Worshipping the King

Worship is keeping open the vital connections between man and the source of his spiritual life.  Worship is the road over which the prodigal travels from the wastelands of sin to the Father’s house of plenty.  It is the wire which connects the Christian with the Dynamo of energy and light, and it is the lifeline through which flows the water of life.  Worship is eating, eating bread at the table of God.   – Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God

Two facets of worship are often overlooked.  First and foremost, worship is a matter of allegiance: whom shall we deem worthy of glory, honor, and dominion? – Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship, 120


¹ For the record, a couple of the 1400 posts have been unintentional duplications, and if I were to read through them all now, I’d only be proud of 14% of them.

² Links to other milestone posts:

  • #1300a non-momentous sharing of quotes from C.S. Lewis
  • #1200—a chiastic meditation
  • #1000—John 9’s exegesis and blindness
  • #900—ponderings about God
  • #666—about Revelation (a post I’m not particularly proud of; I’d say things differently now)

Is it really unconditional?

John Free, in an article titled “Unconditional Love and Covenant Love:  A Comparison” (wpid-img_20151115_154219_379.jpgLeaven, III:4, 1995) has pointed out that never does a canonical scriptural writer refer to God’s love as “unconditional.”  God’s love for humans flows despite our sin and so is generally without that condition, yet, on the contrary, Free compellingly paints God’s love as being character-based, rather than having any reference—positive or negative—to condition or status.

The love of God is, and remains, covenant love.  It is selective.  It is focused.  It endures.  It nurtures growth.  It is calculating and creative.  It is entirely beneficent.  It is disciplinary and corrective.  It is steadfast, eternal.  It is natural.  It is expressive of who God is.  It is consequential.  It is promissory.  And, it is conditional.

Covenant love is what a person experiences as he enters into relationship with God as God has ordained it.  Unconditional love is what a person experiences as he enters into relationship with God as humankind imagines it.

Free finds that the apparently young notion of “unconditional love” is more related to Carl Rogers’s¹ influential counseling theory than to biblical theology.

We do have a proclivity to leap to unwarranted assumptions about God, about scripture, about church, etc.  For instance, the “worship service” institution is not discussed in scripture as such, nor is God painted as “Trinity” per se.  The presumption of an “unconditional” quality of God’s love for you and me appears infinitely more significant than the other two presumptions.

I was drawn by John Free’s above depiction of God’s love, along with his cogent comparison of 1) unconditional love and 2) covenant, character-based love.


¹ One of Rogers’s three centerpieces for counseling practice was “respect; unconditional positive regard” for the counselee.

The scriptures related to Christianity

A few days ago, here, I probed the idea of a city’s being “Bible-minded.”  Just as much, I was questioning whether a survey can aptly represent anything that incorporates levels of depth like Bible knowledge/insight.

Certainly it is good to have basic scriptural knowledge, but Bloom’s well-known taxonomy propels us further:  factual knowledge is a base level of learning, and after that can arise comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (in that order, says Bloom).

It’s all too easy for us to become mired at the “basic knowledge” level, and spiritual complacency can be the result.  In the hands of some, the scriptures can be inappropriately related to various off-base ideas:

  • anti-intellectualism, exclusivism, war, and other species and sub-species of intolerance
  • contemporary antisemitism and other breeds of prejudiced/racist hatred
  • pentecostalism and other kinds of excess or lacks of discernment
  • fundamentalism and other brands of baseless standards and misplaced pride

The title of today’s post might have struck you as odd.  I mean, of course the scriptures are related to Christianity . . . yet not always in the way some unthinking persons assume they are.Barton

The following quotations — quotations that manifest Bloom levels far above “knowledge,” I might note — are from People of the Book:  The Authority of the Bible in Christianity.  The author is John Barton of Oxford University, England, and he writes from a non-fundamentalist vantage point that seeks to understand scripture’s place aptly.  I affirm all the sayings below (but not necessarily everything in the book), and I’m particularly amused and invigorated by the last quote.

B. Casey, 4/9/15

On the “new” covenant:

The Christian gospel is not that a new God, never before known, has just been revealed in Jesus.  It is that the God who already is known has, nevertheless, just done something new and unprecedented — something which means nothing less than the remaking of the world. (p. 9)

On freedom:

Christians are people who have a book, in order to be able to proclaim their freedom from it; and the character of that freedom is deeply shaped by the book from which they have been freed, and He is the God who gave the book who also gives the freedom. (p. 9)

On authority:

. . . it is only in a loose sense that “the Bible” is Paul’s source of authority at all.  What matters to him is God’s action in Christ, as related to God’s previous actions or previous involvement with his people . . . (p. 25)

The value of the Lord’s own sayings for understanding and recognizing his divine authority does not depend on the fact that they appear in the pages of Christian holy books, but derives from the fact that Jesus actually said them. (p. 39) [emph. mine -bc]

For I believe that Christians exist principally in relation not to a text but to a person. (p. 58)

On evidence and atttestation:

. . . The Bible is not only evidence for events; it is also, and more obviously, evidence for the faith of Israel and of the early church. (p. 43)

On anti-fundamentalism:

Anti-fundamentalism, though a necessary cause, is in any case a thankless one; for many who are not at all sympathetic to the Christian faith would prefer Christians to the fundamentalists, because that would make it so much easier to reject their religion as absurd.  (p. 2)

– John Barton (Lecturer in OT and Fellow and Chaplain of St. Cross College, Oxford):  People of the Book.  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1988.

Aletheia

This is a brief collection of quotations about truth (Gk:  aletheia) — and particularly about the seeking of it.  I find that I posted quotes from this book nearly five years ago.  I am intentionally repeating two of those here.

The world is not divided between those who have the truth and those who don’t; it is divided between those who are looking for the truth and those who aren’t.

No one can open his mind to the truth without risking the entrance of falsehood; and no one can close his mind to falsehood without risking the exclusion of truth.

Truth is the concern of every sincere, responsible, and honest person. . . .  What we . . . need is the sharing of discovered truth.

All of us who are interested in truth must pool our efforts to dig away the debris that has collected about truth for centuries. 

Keep one thing forever in view – the truth; and if you do this, though it may seem to lead you away from the opinions of man, it will assuredly conduct you to the throne of God.   – Horace Mann, 1796-1859, American educator

[Above quotations taken from Fellowship of Believers:  An Eclectic Approach to Christianity, © 1968 by Leslie Eugene “Gene” Fooks]

 

From the cowardice that shrinks from new truths,

From the laziness that is content with half truths,

From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,

O God of Truth, deliver us.

[- Sweet Publishing Co.]

Two responses

Following the slaying of President John F. Kennedy, Jr., the composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein said this:

This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.

And in the Christian Chronicle of January 2015, Brian Owens of the (predominantly black) Ferguson Heights MO Church of Christ is said to feel “inclined to protest. ”  But his protest won’t involve “waving a ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ sign, staging a ‘die-in’ or chanting ‘I can’t breathe’ during a march.”  Owens told fellow members of the predominantly black Ferguson Heights Church of Christ,

Worship is our protest. . . .  Our response is worship because it is through our worship that people see the glory of God.

The notions expressed by these two men — ideologically and chronically distant from one another — seem to be of the same ilk, don’t they?

Bernstein
Bernstein
Owens
Owens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next:  Two (more) historical figures

Two views

p14_owens_0115
Owens
p14_brice_0311
Brice

 

Sometimes, believe it or not, I don’t even feel like offering an opinion or critiquing something.  This time, you decide which opinion related to Ferguson, MO you prefer.

In a sermon, Brian Owens offered, “We are not surprised by the lawlessness of man, the arrogance of politics, the irresponsibility of the media, the dishonesty of religious leaders, the false teaching of self-proclaimed modern prophets or the inability of government to bring justice, fairness, equality and peace to this world. . . .  Our kingdom is not of this world.  We can’t be distracted by things of this world. . . .  It is when we love without hypocrisy that people see the glory of God.”  – Brian Owens, Ferguson Heights MO Church of Christ

~ ~ ~

A scholar named Tanya Brice believes Christians ought to be “active in disrupting a system in which blacks are much more likely than whites to be killed by police.”  Brice said, “Heaven is our real home — that’s what folks said during the institution of slavery. . . .  I think that Christians should be in the streets and at the policy table to effect these changes.  I think we should use the words of the prophets,¹ from our sacred Biblical texts, as support for what we do, as our voice against injustice.”  – Tanya Smith Brice, Dean of Education, Health and Human Services, Benedict College, Columbia SC

Both quotations are taken from the January 2015 Christian Chronicle.

Next:  Two responses


¹ OK, one comment:  Brice’s advice to re-appropriate words spoken millennia ago by God’s prophets manifests her lack of understanding of the situational nature of most prophecy, not to mention her lack of scholarly approach to scripture.

Of authors and life

Recently, in a fit of shelf-reorganization, my gaze and thoughts fell on books.  (Another day, I may tell of CDs.)

I commented to my wife that I would credit only three current-day Christian authors with changing my life.

 

books

The first of these is Rubel Shelly, with his restorationist I Just Want To Be a Christian (1984).  For 15 years or more, my direction was changed; for life, my comprehension of the universal church was altered.  It was, of course, not so much a new direction that Shelly commended to those who would hear and read.  Rather, it was a bona fide (in the truest sense of that term) return to the unity ideals of the American Restoration Movement.  Shelly recently stepped out of his role as president of Rochester College, a relatively progressive Christian college.  He now serves as chancellor and teaches courses in philosophy, ethics, logic, and introduction to Christianity.

The second was Cecil Hook.  Cecil’s Free series included Free in Christ, Free To Speak, Free As Sons, Free To Change, and Free To Accept (1984-1994), all distributed free of charge.  Cecil, who was once a preacher and later simply cleaned the church house to eke out a living, was a remarkable figure for me and for many others in challenge of traditional beliefs and practices.  After I put a few feet forward in offering some proofreading, Cecil regularly invited me into his writing-world by sending drafts of articles.  I had the distinct honor of proofing a couple of his books and portions of others, including the entire manuscript of the 2nd edition of his first book, Free in Christ.  Always an example of grace and kindness, even in his most challenging of challenges, Cecil was fond of closing an article with words like these:  “I will understand if you do not arrive at the same understanding.  But we are still brothers — sons of the same impartial Father” (Free to Change, p. 101).  It bears mention that sometimes the experience of someone else’s life and manner does not harmonize with the power of the same person’s pen.  (Mea culpa.)  In the case of Cecil Hook, I found, through a string of communications over a period of years, and during one visit in his home, that his was the humble, inviting kind of spirit from whom anyone could learn.  The grace this man showed to others was not always shown to him:  I personally witnessed the censure of some watchdogs as they passed my display of Hook’s books at a men’s retreat.  Some years ago, a website with Hook’s writings was corrupted; since I am a bit prone to fear conspiracy, I wondered if the site had been an intentional target of some with malevolent intent.  Cecil Hook is now in the “land of the eternally living” (his words at the passing of his wife Lea a few years before).

The third is Gary Collier, through many writings of both public and private-group nature —not the least of which are his monograph Scripture Canon and Inspiration (2012) and his work on Matthew’s gospel The Forgotten Treasure:  Reading the Bible Like Jesus (1993).  Gary is more energetic than ever these days.  I have quoted him on this blog before and will again.  His voice is singular.  He is a first-rate textual Bible scholar, and a Christian sibling who cares deeply about many, despite the miles between them.  Gary’s online study program Coffee With Paul is innovative, instructional, and peopled by many deeply committed students.  One of Gary’s mantras is “contextual, responsible, and conversational Bible study.”  He also manages a chock-full Bible study resources portal at bibledashboard.com.

These authors’ voices have been positively life-changing for me.  The Shelly and Hook writings served important purposes during a prior period of life in which I was constantly engaged in evaluating and reevaluating the traditions in which I had been raised.  I discovered new courage to open my eyes, heart, and mind, and I continue to believe those men were on target.

At this juncture, there is no author’s voice as significantly formative for me as Gary Collier’s; his insistence on reading scripture devotedly, honestly, and responsibly continues to shape me.

I am grateful for the influence of each of these authorial voices in my life.

Sears, Sommerism, and Selection

I have more than one book from my Ritchie grandparents’ library.  One of them is the autobiography of L.C. Sears (later the dean at Harding College).  I inherited this particular book, I think, because the children wanted each grandchild to have at least one book.

My general impressions of “Dean Sears” are scant, but here they are:   1) although in his 90s, he is the one I think I remember walking around the Harding campus while I was a student, 2) I think he was well respected and liked as a gentleman, as a leader, and as a Christian, and 3) #2 must be somewhat true, because a Harding dorm was named after him.  Since I was interested in knowing more about this man who was a major player in Harding’s early and middle years, I read on.

Here is a passage from the early childhood section of the autobiography:

We attended church regularly every Sunday at Odon, but I noticed that wpid-img_20150520_112801_637.jpgmy father and mother were beginning to worry.  There was a lot of talking after church while we children waited impatiently to go home.  I saw some people crying.  I finally learned that some in the church wanted to buy an organ and play it as we sang.  This was the new development which was becoming quite fashionable among the churches.  My father and a number of others, however, protested that the early church never used any musical instruments, and that the apostles urged us only to sing.  In spite of their objections, however, one Sunday the organ was there.  My father and a number of others talked together, and the next Sunday we had a meeting in our home.  Then my father closed the country store and with the help of others turned it into a church building.

– L.C. Sears, What Is Your Life? An Autobiography, p. 15

On the succeeding page, Sears describes, with no detectable emotional charge, the influence of Daniel and Austin Sommer on this new, split-off church in Baille, IN.  Now, some have used the label “Sommerism” to describe divisiveness (in some cases, harsh-spirited rancor) founded on what I take as sincere but overwrought convictions — notably, those scruples related to mechanical instruments, and particularly around 1900.

If I had lived in the time of Sears’s youth, I imagine I would have been in the non-organ faction¹ by birth.  I dearly hope, though, that I would have been less dogmatically exclusive and more irenic than RM non-instrumentalists tend to be.

Having known of places in which I felt the hyper-pejorative label “inbred” was not too strong a descriptor, I found curious these lines from the chapter on the 1940-1955 era:

By “selective” inbreeding, however, we could draw as many teachers as possible from our other Christian colleges and then choose, as we had been doing, from our own graduates those who would add greatest strength to our institution.  They would be as competent as any we could find elsewhere, and because they knew and loved the school they would be more willing to accept the salaries we could offer.  (p. 148)

There is something to be said for a sacrificial mode of operation.  It certainly breeds loyalty, if the town or institution or business survives.  In the midst of the lean times, though, morale can be dismal.  I would speculate that the above-mentioned method of cherry-picking CofCers to be faculty members would be frowned on by 21st-century regulators and accreditors.  That doesn’t mean such inbreeding doesn’t exist today; it only means folks aren’t likely to be as transparent about it as Sears was.

Sears had the rare, unenviable position of being involved in college administration through both the first and second World Wars, not to mention the early operation of the Selective Service.  I was impressed with his even-handed mentions of both a) those who served in the military and b) those who were conscientious objectors on some level.  One conscience-driven man — Ben Randolph, who was Sears’s roommate — was put in jail for a period of years for refusing to accept a non-combatant position.  As a dean, Sears was called on to advocate the interests and consciences of young men on both sides of the complicated, charged questions of military service; he seems to have communicated with non-preferential, dignified treatment of all.

As I made my way through the book, I found confirmed my general impressions that L.C. “Cline” Sears was a man worthy of emulation.  He happened to have married into influence — becoming the son-in-law of J.N. Armstrong, who was, by most accounts, the first president of Harding.  Armstrong, in turn, was son-in-law to James A. Harding, who had been a student under Alexander Campbell at Bethany College, and who was key in the beginnings of both David Lipscomb College and Harding College.

My father was unaware, or had forgotten, that his own letter was quoted by Sears among notes received at the dean’s retirement.  I’ll close this brief look with my father’s words from his student days in 1960:

There couldn’t be a more humble man than you.  Thank you for two wonderful classroom experiences. . . .  You are one of the real leaders at Harding. . . .  – Gerald W. Casey (p. 169)

=============

¹ Frankly, I am in the non-organ faction today, but for different reasons:  I simply don’t like most of the (overwhelming) sounds that instrument makes, and I am disturbed by the inhibition of congregational participation.

Special for 11/4/14: coining a word

During election week in 2004, I stood in front of a student named Jason — a nice guy, a good student, and a year or two older and a bit more mature than some others.  He was in the National Guard and was a Baptist.  Everyone would have considered him to be an upstanding young man, with good behavior, Christian beliefs, and military service to his credit.

Jason asked about my voting (none of which there was, or would be — because of conscience, not apathy).  I said something about not voting because “this isn’t my world.”  Jason was shocked, and I had the sense that he felt betrayed as a fellow Christian.  Others were listening, so I didn’t go into it, but I probably should have pursued it privately with Jason later.

You know how the Christian right tends to think that every believer ought to “stand up and be counted” and “stand for righteousness”?  My general feeling is that Christian-types who preach “standing up for our beliefs” are often more interested in changing a temporary system than in giving allegiance to a lasting one.  I resist the idea that we must seek to change this world’s beliefs and practices.  First off, I think it can be offensive to non-Christians.  Also, simply put, it is based on a non-sequitur:  simply because we happen to be citizens of a democratic republic doesn’t necessitate involvement in the running of its affairs.

I don’t believe it’s either imperative or logical that everyone should vote.  This position, I’ll admit, is somewhat related to my distrust of, and disinterest in, governmental systems.  But at least 75% of it is based on my scruples about the nature of the kingdoms, the dominions, the worlds.  This physical universe and all its systems, I’m convinced, are destined to pass away.  Life here is temporary, and eternal life is beyond this world and its politics.

Yes, I’ll probably check a few election results tonight and tomorrow morning, but I’m not persuaded that the results will make much difference for the coming 2+ years, and the results absolutely won’t make any difference eternally.  Two kingdoms stand in contrast to one another, and the eternal one is my primary concern.

If you were left aghast or appalled or a-feared or affronted by the above, please just read the quotation below.  This quotation is inserted here, between other essays on a different topic, because it’s election day.

From now on, heaven has come to earth.  There is now overlap.  Intersection.  Invasion.  The kingdom has arrived.  The kingdom has come and is now on the loose in our very midst.  It is at hand, within reach, very near to each of us.  For what purpose?  To begin what God had promised from the beginning:  the reversal of what has become of the created world since its fall and ruin in Genesis 3.”

– Greg Finke (via Roger Thoman), Missionary.”

Greg Finke’s is a kind of voice that deserves repeated hearings among Christians.  (His voice would be lost on non-Christians, although some of them might appreciate it if believers meddled less in this world’s affairs, trying in vain to create another theocracy.)  Note that Greg does not suggest head-in-the-clouds waiting for the glorious “over yonder,” as some of the gospel songs suggest.  One could actually use what he said to encourage political activity if one were of that mindset.  And, the more I read it over, the more I think he is likely suggesting a physical, eternal kingdom along with the spiritual one.  That is a presupposition I do not share, but the main point is really not what we do, or don’t do, in this current world-system; the point is that there is something bigger than this world.  From the Incarnation onward, we view the lasting kingdom as the one that matters.  Its arrival in this temporary, world-sphere means a new set of imperatives that have eternal significance.

For once, let’s lay aside the anxieties (I have them, too) about ISIS and the global & U.S. economies and all the messed-up political systems.  Let’s pay less attention to fear (I have it, too) about the societal effects of abortion, the ever-pressing, encroaching homosexual agenda, and general, moral decline that creates a world-system we don’t want our children and grandchildren to experience.

Let’s rather realize the everlasting nature of the Kingdom of which believers are citizens.  Let’s rather “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.”  The Prince of Peace offers a peace not of this world.  “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He said, without reference to wars and persecutions and standing up and being counted in elections of this world.  He said our hearts shouldn’t be troubled because He had overcome the world.  I need to hear this myself.  I need to pay more attention to Kingdom thinking and Kingdom philosophies — and to resultant Kingdom behavior.

Finke’s inspirational thinking is of a type all its own.  Be it premillennial or not, it is not heart-candy with spiritual high-fructose corn syrup at the top of its ingredient list.  No, this kind of inspiration is both grounded and eternally moored.  It is about something beyond this world!  I feel like creating a word. . . .

Let’s label this kind of voice basileic (click the link for the referent).